Gain control by giving up control

I really enjoy Matt Bai’s coverage of the campaigns for the New York Times. In the Magazine section from December 9, 2007 he makes a compelling argument for why candidates no longer control their candidacies.

The essential lesson of Dean’s 2004 campaign and the online movement it is credited, rightly or wrongly, with inspiring was that these things cannot be orchestrated. "…the greatest momentum goes not to the candidate with the most detailed plan for conquering the Web but to the candidate who surrenders his own image to the clicking masses, the same way a rock guitarist might fall backwards off the stage into the hands of an adoring crowd."

The smartest companies have reached the same conclusion: since it is no longer possible to dictate the rules of the game as it pertains to marketing, product development and branding, you may as well as give up some of that control to your audience or consumers and, in so doing, foster greater loyalty.

Gain more by giving more. Hmmm….interesting concept.

Double the Vote

Voter turnout in the US has always been a vexing problem, even more so on the local level.

Our good friends at Double the Vote are trying to do something about that, and we wanted to help. All the issues videos on their site were produced by Clearcast Digital Media.

Tip O’Neill famously observed that all politics are local. Here’s one for you, Mr. O’Neill.

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The train is coming

Peter Leyden of the New Politics Institute recently observed, "The 20th century was the cult of the artiste, the director, the president or the CEO, the mad genius who knows everything and controls everything. But the way our economy works now, it’s increasingly made up of all kinds of people contributing at all different levels. Why wouldn’t our politics work like that, too?"

Indeed, politics is migrating more and more to the web: netroots, bloggers shaping the national dialogue, voters using the internet to check a candidate’s voting record, etc. As an adviser for the 2004 campaign realized too late, "…the dangerous lesson of the web [is] you succeed by giving up control, and that’s the inverse of the normal campaign. The most difficult choice is just to wake up and smell the coffee."

Many are scared of the two-way conversation that blogging and podcasting facilitate. Trying to avoid the oncoming train will be scarier still.

Well, they’re getting closer…

It was announced that CNN and YouTube will be sponsoring a Democratic debate on July 23 and a Republican debate on September 17 where all the questions will be taken from the YouTube submissions. While CNN will decide which videos get picked, the ancillary benefit to those interested in follow up is that the debate will no doubt continue for days afterwards online. Of course, the potential for mash up is there, too, since all the videos will remain on YouTube and can then be edited together with the candidates’ responses, creating a new "1984" style phenomenon.

Most of the candidates are still missing the point of how to use internet video to their advantage. To use a sports metaphor, they are still letting the game come to them, instead of taking the game to the viewer. Podcasting allows you to talk about yourself before people start talking about you. This is true whether you are an individual, a company or a candidate for office.

"Candidates are starting to recognize that the only way to fight the potential tsunami of voter-generated video is to produce lots of video themselves, " says Andrew Rasiej, a co-founder of the non-partisan website techPresident, which tracks the candidates use of technology.

As we have previously noted, the hang up is financial, but not in the way you might think. Podcasting is so efficient in terms of both cost and as a communications tool, it will emerge as the most important message tool of our era.

"But there is both a component of habit and a component of financial self-interest here among consultants here in Washington, which is, you know, once they say well, you’re right, you know, these ads don’t really matter and people aren’t really watching them and they’re skipping over them on their Tivos, and they’re not especially well produced and they all sound the same, and everybody’s zoning them out, and maybe this isn’t the best way to get your message out there – once they say that, they’ve just thrown away a pretty significant [LAUGHS] meal ticket, right?

Essentially, consultants keep driving up the costs of a race by insisting that it has to be fought over the air at high expense. The networks keep raising the money to astronomical rates for these ads, ‘cause they know that the campaigns are raising it, and the ad guys are making out like bandits. And I don’t think they’re going to be quick to tell anybody that that business model no longer works, but I do think it’s going to become apparent."

Source: On the Media-April 27, 2007

Politics and podcasting

It was almost one year ago exactly that I first found out about podcasting. I was leaving on a family vacation across the country and I was anxious to load up my digital media player with music and some episodes of one of my favorite NPR programs, On the Media. By accident, I discovered the premiere of another podcast entitled This Week in Media. The two shows differ in that On the Media discusses the media business and how events are covered (or not covered) whereas This Week in Media talks more about trends and issues affecting content creators, consumers and enthusiasts. Time is devoted to talking about cameras, recording devices, online content creation, media news, trends, etc.

The point of this is that as I listened to the four man panel discussion in the first episode of This Week in Media last year, my reaction was "These guys are speaking directly to ME!" My mouth was hanging open during the entire hour of the podcast because I couldn’t believe that they could do something so highly targeted that was free from filler, sponsors, breaks, filters or anything. It was just raw unadulterated content about a topic that was completely fascinating to me. And here’s the kicker- if I wanted to follow up DIRECTLY with them, I could (and did).

The application of this technology in the political arena is something that people are just now waking up to. Newspapers are in decline (much to my unending sadness. There are few things more satisfying in life than reading a newspaper), and television is becoming less effective as a campaign tool. If you want to connect with voters, advocates, volunteers or students, you need to adapt these tools. The people who figure this out will emerge ahead. Those that don’t will continue to hemorrhage money doing things the old way.

James Boyce sums it up nicely in this post:

Finally, I saw more numbers from the 2008 Campaigns. The lesson of the
campaign will be a dramatic shift on how people raise money and run
campaigns. Television and newspaper advertising and direct mail will
not be effective in the 2008 campaign like they used to be. The tens of
millions of dollars raised will go, essentially, for naught.

Someone will spend $75 million plus and not sniff the nomination.
It’s Caveat Donor right now, but the major donors don’t see the writing
on the wall yet.

Three predictions:

A major city newspaper will fail or fold in the next twelve months.

The price will rise for good content – no matter where it’s from.

The 2008 candidate who invests in talent and new media not television, wins.